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מָאוֹר – light (source)

Semantic Fields: Light   
Author(s): Raymond de HoopCornelis Houtman
First published: 2011-03-24
Last update: 2019-11-16
Citation: Raymond de Hoop, Cornelis Houtman, מָאוֹר – light (source),
               Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database (, 2011 (update: 2019)


Grammatical type: n.m.
Occurrences: 19x HB (15/1/3); 1x Sir.; 23x Qum.; 0x Inscr. (Total: 43).

  • Torah: Gen 1:14, 15, 16 (3x); Exod 25:6;1 27:20; 35:8, 14 (2x), 28; 39:37; Lev 24:2; Num 4:9, 16.
  • Nebiim: Ezek 32:8.
  • Ketubim: Ps 74:16; 90:8; Prov 15:30.
  • Ben Sira: 43:4 (mss B, Mas).
  • Qumran:2 1QHoda 3 IX:13; XIII:34; XV:28; XVII:26; XX:8; XXIII:32;4 1Q28 (1QS) X:3; 1Q28b (1QSb) IV:27; 1Q33 (1QM) X:11; XIII:10; 1Q34bis (1QFestival Prayersab) fr3.II:1; 4Q256 (4QSb) XIX:1; 4Q286 (4QBerakhota) fr1.II:3; 4Q287 (4QBerakhotb) fr1:1; 4Q301 (4QMystc?) fr2b:4; 4Q402 (4QShirShabbc) fr12:2; 4Q418 (4QInstrd) fr1:5; 4Q429 (4QHodc) fr3:5;5 4Q440 (4QHod-like C) fr1:1; 4Q503 (4QpapPrQuot) fr215:6; 4Q504 (4QDibHama) fr8verso:1; 4Q511 (4QShirb) fr2.I:8; 11Q5 (11QPsa) XV:10 (136:7).
  • Text doubtful: 1QHoda frC.6:2; 4Q185 (4QSapiential Admonitions B) fr1-2.III:2; 4Q258 (4QSd) VIII:12; 4Q260 (4QSf) II:2; 4Q299 (4QMysta) fr5:1; 4Q392 (4QWorks of God) fr1:9; 4Q416 (4QInstrb) fr1:7; 4Q422 (4QparaGenExod) II:12; 4Q427 (4QHoda) fr8.II:11; 4Q432 (4QpapHf) fr1:1; 4Q495 (4QMe) fr2:1.

Text Doubtful

A.1 All the texts listed here as ‘doubtful’, seem to have included the word מאור in one way or another. Yet, most of these readings are reconstructions based on parallel texts. Although most of them seem likely, they are not included in this list of occurrences.

B.1 In Prov 15:30 the critical apparatus of BHS proposes to read מַרְאֵה־עֵינַיִם / מָרְאֵה, ‘the sight of the eyes’, instead of MT מְאוֹר־עֵינַיִם (without reference to LXX’s reading, θεωρῶν ὀφθαλμὸς καλὰ, ‘the eye that observes good things’; see below, section 4.a). Michael Fox suggests that this reading would be in line with LXX, resulting in the following text: מַרְאֵה־עֵ֭ינַיִם יְשַׂמַּֽח־לֵ֑ב, ‘the sight of the eyes makes the heart glad’. He argues that the words ‘the sight of the eyes’ would refer to something that is visible and desirable to the viewer.6 MT ’s מְאוֹר־עֵינַיִם יְשַׂמַּח־לֵב, ‘light of the eyes gladdens the heart’, would mean something like ‘joy or vitality makes the heart glad’ (comparable to the idiom with אוֹר in 1 Sam 14:27, 29; Ps 13:4; Prov 29:13). According to Fox (2009:604) this would be awkward and tautologous. In his view מְאוֹר־עֵינַיִם, ‘light of the eyes’ cannot refer to one’s own eyes, ‘because that would be the effect of the glad heart, not … its cause’ (Fox 2009:604). The solution offered by e.g. Delitzsch (1873:257-58; see also Plöger 1984:184-85) that it does not refer to one’s own eyes, but to the bright eyes of another person, thus their smiles and favour, is rejected by Fox since ‘the light of the eyes’ is not used in this way (Fox 2009:604). Although the other Versions appear to presuppose מָאוֹר (cf. below, section 4), a different reading in the pre-MT version of the text is possible. However, a reading- or writing-error of מראה > מאור is unlikely. Fox (2015:243; cf. p. xv) suggests metathesis of רא > אר, as well as a change (or misconstrual) of orthography, and the association of two words in the same semantic field. Three errors in order to misconstrue one word would require a rather clumsy scribe. In his commentary Fox did not take into consideration the complete reading of LXX, which not only read one word θεωρέω, ‘to look at, to behold, to see’, as the rendering of the Hebrew word, but apparently offered an interpretation of the Hebrew original by rendering θεωρῶν ὀφθαλμὸς καλὰ, ‘the eye that observes good things’ (NETS). In his text edition of Proverbs Fox (2015:243) suggests that LXX added καλά, ‘good, beautiful’ for ’logical clarity’, because not everything the eye sees is pleasing. This ‘adjustment’ would only make sense in response to מראה, ‘sight, appearance, vision’, instead of מאור, ‘light’, in the source text. Indeed, as Fox states himself (2015:243), not everything the eye sees, pleases the heart, and it is questionable whether such a saying would fit into the book of Proverbs.
Thus, in addition to the fact that we have to assume that MT was copied by a rather clumsy scribe, who makes three errors in one word, we also have to assume that LXX added the word καλά
to ‘correct’ the original proverb. 4QProvb has not been well preserved, nevertheless, the extant fragment containing 15:30 reads [מאו]ר̊ עינים, which indicates that 4QProv has a similar reading to MT.7 The likelier option is that LXX was not translating a different word than the other Versions, but sought to interpret the expression מְאוֹר־עֵינַיִם.8 This is in line with the translation technique of the LXX-translator of Proverbs, who was sometimes extremely free, and (perhaps appropriately when translating proverbs) actively interpreted his Vorlage.9
The reading of MT might be understood in two ways. First, the most frequently adopted reading is, that ‘light’ indicates something positive that somebody sees and that this gladdens the heart, and that this parallels ‘a good report’ (שְׁמוּעָה) in the next colon (v. 30B). Another possibility, however, is to understand the word מָאוֹר literally, as happened in later usage: מְאוֹר עֵינַיִם, ‘eye-sight’.10 Whichever one prefers, MT makes sense and does not require conjecture.

B.2 In Song 4:9 we read לִבַּבְתִּ֙ינִי֙ בְּאַחַד מֵעֵינַ֔יִךְ, ‘you captured my heart with one of your eyes’, which seems grammatically awkward because of the incongruence of אַחַד (msc.) and עַיִן (fem.). Furthermore, Wilhelm Rudolph argued that this reading is practically impossible because ‘she sees with both eyes’ (‘sie sieht ja mit beiden Augen’). For that reason he proposed the reading בְּאַחַד מְאוֹרֵי מֵעֵינַ֔יִךְ, ‘with one glance of your eyes’.11
The textual witnesses (incl. 4QCantb) do not indicate a problem in the text,12 except that the Qere suggests the reading בְּאַחַת (fem.) to compensate for the incongruence. However, as was indicated by other scholars עַיִן is not dealt with everywhere as a feminine, namely in Zech 3:9, 4:10; Job 21:20; Song 6:5.13 The morphology of the numeric noun אֶחָד is not unproblematic and the forms were not applied in an absolutely consistent manner, for instance with רֹתֶם אֶחָת and רֹתֶם אֶחָד in 1 Kgs 19:4-5.14 Even more important is the fact that if the numeral אֶחָד is applied before a substantive in the genitive it is a substantive itself and thus does not adjust its gender or number, as in: אַחַד הֶהָרִים (Gen 22:2; cf. 37:22).15 Othmar Keel instead interprets עֵינַיִךְ as ‘look, glance’, which would also solve Rudolph’s other problem (‘she sees with both eyes’).16 In conclusion, Rudolph’s proposal in Song 4:9 is to be rejected and the text might be rendered (after Keel):

   You captured my heart, my love, my bride!
     You captured my heart, with one of your glances,
         with one coil of your necklace.

Ketiv/Qere: none.17

1. Root and Comparative Material

A.1 מָאוֹר is derived from the √ אור, ‘be light’,18 which has numerous derivatives in the Hebrew Bible, such as אוֹר, ‘light’, אוּר, ‘fire’, אוֹרָה, ‘light’, מְאוּרָה, ‘light-hole’; while the root is also applied in l.n./p.n. אוּר, ‘Ur’, and p.n.: אוּרִי, ‘Uri’, אוּרִיאֵל, ‘Uriel’, אוּרִיָּה(וּ), ‘Uriyah(u)’, and יָאִיר, ‘Jair’.

A.2 The √ʾwr seems to be Hamito-Semitic (DRS, 13; HSED, 35), but only in NWSem languages is it fully developed. Yet, the root is not unequivocally attested in NWSem epigraphical texts but only in uncertain contexts.19 In Akk. the root is attested as urru (ḫurru), ‘day, daylight’ (CAD U/W, 243-44; AHw iii:1433). Ug. also applies the verb ʾir, ‘to shine’20 and the nomen ʾar/ʾir, ‘light’.21 However, the word mʾwr/מָאוֹר itself is only found in BHebr., Sam., Qum., LMHebr., and Jewish Aramaic.

A.3 Post-biblical Hebrew: the word מאור is attested as 1. ‘luminary, light’; 2. ‘light-hole, opening, window’ (cf. BHebr. מְאוּרָה).22

A.4 Jewish Aramaic: the word מאור, ‘light’ occurs again in an inscription of the synagogue in Synchar, l. 7: ומאורה דקה(לה), ‘the light of the congregation’ (ATTM, 401-02, 506), and in TF to Exod 13:22 מאור עמודא דעננא, ‘the light of the pillar of fire’.23

A.5 Samaritan Aramaic: מָאוֹר is attested in the sense of ‘light’, ‘luminary’ and it is applied as an epithet for Moses and Aaron (Tal, DSA, 14.). Furthermore it is applied to render Heb. מָאוֹר in Gen 1:16; Exod 35:141; Num 4:9 in TSmr (see below, §4.c).

2. Formal Characteristics

A.1 מָאוֹר (spelt once מָאֹר, Exod 25:6) is a maqāl-formation of the √אור.24 Nouns with the preformative מ are mainly abstract nouns, nouns of place and nouns of instrument.25

3. Syntagmatics

A.1 מָאוֹר occurs in the singular absolute (e.g. Gen 1:16; Exod 35:14; Ps 74:16), in the singular construct as מְאוֹר (Ps 90:8; Prov 15:30), as well as plural (with fem. ending): מְאוֹרֹת (Gen 1:15) and מְאֹרֹת (Gen 1:14, 16). The plural construct occurs only once with masc. ending: מְאוֹרֵי in Ezek 32:8; while in the texts from the Judean Desert it occurs with the fem. ending: מאורות.

A.2 מָאוֹר occurs as nomen regens of:
אוֹר, ‘light’ in Ezek 32:8;
כבודו, ‘his glory’ in 4QShirb fr2.I:8;
עֵינַיִם, ‘eyes’ in Prov 15:30;
עולם, ‘long time’ in 1QHoda XV:25;
פני, ‘my face’ in 1QHoda XIII:32; 4QHodc fr3:5;
פָּנֶיךָ, ‘your face’ in Ps 90:8.

A.3 מָאוֹר is nomen rectum of:26
דבר, ‘word’ in 4QDibHama fr8verso:1;
חקה, ‘law, statute’ in 1QHoda XX:5;
לשאון, ‘for a/the noise of’ in Sir 43:4 (Ms-B);
לשון, ‘tongue’ in Sir 43:4 (Ms B-margin and M);
מלא[כי], ‘angels’ in 4QShirb fr2.I:8;
מְנֹרָה, ‘lampstand’ in Exod 35:14; Num 4:9;
צבא, ‘army’ in 1QM X:11;
שר, ‘prince’ in 1QM XIII:10;
שֶׁמֶן, ‘oil’ in Exod 35:14; 39:37; Num 4:16.

A.4 מָאוֹר in nominal clauses:
כי אתה לי מאור עולם, ‘for you are my everlasting luminary’, 1QHoda XV:25.

A.5 Verbs
A.5.1 מָאוֹר is subject of:
אור hi., inf.cstr., ‘to give light, to shine’, Gen 1:15;
בדל hi., inf.cstr., ‘to separate, to divide from’, Gen 1:14;
גלה qal, ‘to uncover, reveal’ in 1QHoda XXIII:32 (= DSS.SE XXIII-bottom:12);
היה qal jus., ‘to be’, Gen 1:14;
חשׁך qal, ‘to be dark’ in 1QHoda XIII:32;
שׂמח pi., ‘to gladden, make someone merry’, Prov 15:30.

A.5.2 מָאוֹר is nomen rectum with a verbal form of:
באופיע, inf.cstr. (‘in the shining of’) 1QS X:3.

A.5.3 מָאוֹר is the [direct] object of:
אור hi., ‘to give light, to shine’, 1QHoda XVII:26-27;
כון hi., ‘to prepare, make ready, to set up’, Ps 74:16;
עשׂה qal, ‘to do, make’, Gen 1:16 (3x with part. אֵת);
פתח qal, ‘to open’, 4QHod-like C fr1:1;
קדר hi., ‘to darken’, Ezek 32:8.

A.5.4 מָאוֹר is governed by לְ:
היה qal, ‘to be’, Gen 1:15;
שׁית qal, ‘to put, set’, Ps 90:8.

A.6 מָאוֹר is specified by the following adjectives:
גָּדוֹל, ‘great’, Gen 1:16 (2x); 1QHoda XX:5; 1QFestival Prayersab II:1; 4QHod-like C fr1:1;
פלא, ‘wonderful’, 4QBerakhota fr1.II:3;
קָטֹן, ‘small’, Gen 1:16.

A.7 מָאוֹר is used in a prep. construction with לְ:
שֶׁמֶן [... ] לַמָּאוֹר,27 Exod 25:6; 27:20; 35:8; 35:28;28 Lev 24:2.

4. Ancient Versions

a. Septuagint (LXX) and other Greek versions (α´/ σ´/θ´):

  • θεωρέω … καλὰ, ‘to observe / notice visually … good things’29 (cf. discussion above, introduction, B.1): Prov 15:30LXX;
  • πυρώδης, ‘fiery, fire-like’:30 Sir 43:4LXX;
  • φαίνω, ‘to shine’:31 Ezek 32:8LXX, Ps 89:8σʹ (90:8MT);
  • φαῦσις, ‘light … illumination’:32 Gen 1:15LXX; Exod 25:6αʹσʹθʹ; 35:8σʹ; Lev 24:2αʹσʹθʹ; Ps 73:16LXX (74:16MT);33
  • φῶς, ‘light’:34 Exod 27:20LXX; 35:8θʹ, 141: LXX, 142: θʹ, 28θʹ; 39:16LXX (39:37MT); Lev 24:2LXX; Num 4:16LXX; Ps 73:16θʹ (74:16MT);
  • φωστήρ, ‘that which gives out light’:35 Gen 1:14LXX, 15αʹ, 16LXX (3x ); Ps 73:16αʹσʹ (74:16MT); Prov 15:30αʹ;
  • φωτίζω, ‘to illumine, to provide light’:36 Num 4:9LXX;
  • φωτίσμος, ‘light’:37 Ps 89:8LXX (90:8MT); Prov 15:30σʹ;
  • No rendering: Exod 25:6LXX; 35:8LXX, 141: θʹ, 142: LXX, 28LXX.38

b. Peshitta (Pesh):

  • ܢܗܝܪܐ (nhyrʾ [nahhīrā]), ‘light’:39 Gen 1:14, 16 (3x); Ezek 32:8;
  • ܢܗܪ (nhr), aph., ‘to give forth light, to shine brightly’:40 Gen 1:15, Exod 25:6; 27:20; 35:8, 14 (2x), 28; 39:37; Lev 24:2; Num 4:9, 16;
  • ܢܘܗܪܐ (nwhrʾ [nūhrā]), ‘light, brightness’:41 Ps 74:16; 90:8; Prov 15:30;
  • ܢܘܪܐ (nwrʾ [nūrā]), ‘fire’:42 Sir 43:4.

c. Targum (Tg: O/PsJ/N/Smr/J/K):

  • אַנְהוֹרֵי, ‘lighting, illumination’:43 Exod 35:141: O,PsJ; Num 4:9O,PsJ;
  • אַנְהֹרָה, ‘giving of light’:44 Exod 35:141: N; 35:142: Smr, 28Smr; 39:37Smr;45 Lev 24:2Smr; Num 4:16Smr;
  • אַנְהָרוּ, ‘lighting, illumination’:46 Exod 25:6O,N; 27:20N; 35:8O,PsJ,N,Smr, 142: O,N, 28O,PsJ,N; 39:37O,PsJ,N; Lev 24:2N; Num 4:9N, 16O,PsJ,N;
  • מָאוֹר ‘light’47 Gen 1:16Smr (3x); Exod 35:141: Smr; Num 4:9Smr;
  • נְהוֹר, %sg. and plur. ‘light’:48 Gen 1:14O,PsJ,N, 15O,PsJ, 16O,PsJ,N (3x); Ps 90:8K; Prov 15:30K;
  • נהר, ‘to give light, illumine’:49 Gen 1:15N; Exod 25:6PsJ; 27:20O,PsJ,Smr; Lev 24:2O,PsJ; Ezek 32:8J;50
  • נַהֲרוּ ‘light’:51 Exod 25:6Smr;
  • סַהַר ‘moon’:52 Ps 74:16K;
  • No rendering: Exod 35:142: PsJ.

d. Vulgate (Vg):

  • aurora, ‘dawn, daybreak’:53 Ps 73:16 (74:16MT);54
  • igneus, ‘fiery’:55 Sir 43:4;
  • ignus, ‘fire’:56 Exod 35:142;
  • inluminatio, ‘a lighting up, enlightening’:57 Ps 89:8 (90:8MT);58
  • luceo, ‘to be light, to shine’:59 Gen 1:15;
  • lucerna, ‘lamp, oil-lamp’:60 Num 4:16;
  • lucidus, ‘clear, bright’:61 Lev 24:2;
  • luminare, ‘that which gives light, luminary, lamp’:62 Gen 1:14, 16 (3x); Exod 25:6; 35:8, 141, 28; Ezek 32:8; Ps 73:16 (74:16MT);63
  • lux, ‘light’:64 Ps 89:8 (90:8MT);65 Prov 15:30;
  • No rendering: Exod 27:20; 39:37; Num 4:9.

A.1 It appears that the hexaplaric witnesses worked with a kind of standard vocabulary and preferred to translate every occurrence of a term in the same way, irrespective of context. In this way we see that α´ and σ´ preferred to render מָאוֹר with φωστήρ, ‘that which gives out light, luminary’, while θ´ preferred to apply φῶς, ‘light’. There seems to be a certain tendency in the Hexaplaric witnesses to translate each occurrence with the same Greek word and thus to harmonise the translation.

A.2 The Greek translation relates the Hebrew word מָאוֹר to the verb אוֹר hi., ‘give light, shine, illuminate’. The word φαῦσις is used exclusively for מָאוֹר, while φωτίσμος and to a very large degree φῶς are used to render אוֹר. The word φωστήρ is applied to מָאוֹר as well as to זֹהַר, shining, splendour’.66 Apparently the translators did not regard the word מָאוֹר as an object, but as a word which described the effect of ‘(giving) light’, viz. an abstractum.

A.3 The Targumists chose a number of verbal nouns derived from √נהר, ‘to illuminate, shine, give light’,67 resulting in nominal renderings like ‘lighting, illumination’.68 Aram. נהר and derivates are used in Tg to represent the following words in MT: אוֹר, ‘light’; אור, qal: ‘to be bright’, hi.: ‘to shine, brighten’; אוֹרָה I, ‘light, joy’; נגה, gleam, shining’; נֵיר, ‘lamp’;69 חזה, ‘to see, perceive’;70 נהר qal, ‘to shine’; זרח qal, ‘to shine.71 Apparently the Targumists interpreted the Hebr. מָאוֹר as closely related to its √אור.

A.4 The remarks regarding the translation of Tg apply to the interpretation of Pesh as well.

A.5 In the Vulgate of Exod 25:6; 35:8, 28 the text שֶׁמֶן לַמָּאֹר is rendered oleum ad luminaria concinnanda, ‘oil to make lights’ (dynamic equivalent translation). In Exod 35:141 וְאֶת־מְנֹרַת הַמָּאוֹר is translated in a similar way: candelabrum ad luminaria sustentanda, ‘candle to support the lights’. In Exod 35:142 שֶׁמֶן הַמָּאוֹר is rendered oleum ad nutrimenta ignium, ‘the oil for nourishing the fires’ (dynamic equivalent translation of the nomen rectum הַמָּאוֹר).

A.6 In Ezek 32:8 the construction מְאוֹרֵי אוֹר is represented with one word in Vg: luminaria.

B.1 The rendering of מאור in Sir 43:4 apparently raised some problems, since the three ancient Versions, LXX, Pesh, and Vg, each used a word which was not used elsewhere to represent the Hebrew word מאור: πυρώδης, ‘fiery, fire-like’;72 ܢܘܪܐ (nwrʾ), ‘fire’;73 igneus, ‘fiery’.74 Hatch & Redpath, and Muraoka suppose that Gr. πυρώδης represents Hebr. אוּר I, ‘fire’,75 but they do not explain the מ-prefix of מאור, which is found in two mss (B-margin and M). It is more likely that the translator did read לשון מאור, ‘tongue, ray of light’, but sought to interpret the expression with a more frequently attested expression לְשׁוֹן אֵשׁ, ‘tongue of fire’ (Isa. 5:24; 1QLit.3Tongues of Fire fr1.3, fr2.3; 4QApocrMosesb fr1.II.1),76 and which was better suited to a context describing the extreme heat of the sun.77 This reading common to LXX, Pesh and Vg can be explained by the dependancy on LXX of the translators
of Pesh and Vg.78

B.2 In the rendering of Hebr. מָאוֹר in Num 4:16 by lucerna, ‘lamp, oil-lamp’ in Vg, we are confronted for the first time in the Versions with a word that clearly refers to a lamp as a source of light. Of course the word luminare (e.g. in: Exod 35:8, 141, 28) could also be rendered in English by the word ‘lamp’.79 But this depends on the interpretation of the texts of Vg to which it was applied. The word luminare is derived from lumen, ‘light’, which also can represent an object, viz. ‘a light, a source of light’, but also ‘brightness, splendour, bright colour, daylight’ etc.80 The same kind of transfer from the source to its object can be discerned regarding the word luminare, which is applied to ‘I. a luminary, heavenly body’; ‘III. a window-shutter, window’, but also to: ‘II. a light, lamp burned in the Jewish temple and in Christian churches’.81 However, in line with the etymological development of the word, the rendering into English would be more correct if the more general word ‘a light, source of light’ were applied. In that case, only the rendering of Vg in Num 4:16 suggests that we are dealing with an implement, viz. ‘a lamp’. Obviously the translator struggled with the terminology since the expression שֶׁמֶן הַמָּאוֹר was rendered in a dynamically equivalent manner (cf. above, A.2), which might indicate that he had not found a satisfactory equivalent in Latin, or even that he was not clear on what the Hebr. word מָאוֹר meant.

5. Lexical/Semantic Fields

A.1 מָאוֹר occurs in the creation story in the plural (מְאוֹרֹת) as the entities that shall separate (בדל) night from day. It is an echo of the first day (Gen 1:3-5), when the light (אוֹר) was created (Jacob 1934:48-49). מְאוֹרֹת in vv. 14-15 is the designation for all the entities in the full expanse (רָקִיעַ) of the sky, the sun, moon and the stars. Later the adjectives ‘great’ (גָּדֹול, 2x) and ‘small’ (קָטֹן, 1x) serve to single out the sun and the moon. In Ezek 32:7-8 a similar usage can be discerned, where first in v. 7 stars (כּוֹכָב), sun (שֶׁמֶשׁ) and moon (יָרֵחַ) are mentioned and subsequently are summarised in one description: כָּל־מְאוֹרֵי אוֹר, ‘all lights that shine’ (NJPS). In Ps 74:16 מָאוֹר is used in juxtaposition with the sun (וָשָׁמֶשׁ, ‘and sun’), which might suggest that ‘sun’ is more specific: ‘you established light and sun’.82

A.2 In the non-biblical Dead Sea Scrolls the expression מאור גדול is used several times as a designation for the sun (1QHoda XX:5; 1QFestival Prayersab II:1; 4QHod-like C fr1:1). The expression מאורות גדולים is also found in 11QPsa frD.XV:10 (= Ps 136:7), where MT has אוֹרִים גְּדֹלִים. It is applied in combination with words for light (אור, 1QHoda XX:5), and day (יום, 1QHoda XX:5; 1QFestival Prayersab II:1), and — in line with Gen 1:14-16 — considered to have dominion (ממשלה, 1QHoda XX:5; 4QHod-like C fr1:1) over the day, and have its own laws (חוקות, 1QHoda XX:5; 1QFestival Prayersab II:1-2). In this sense the plural (מאורות) is also applied to the lights (צבא מאורות, ‘army of lights’, 1QM X:11) that shine from the ‘holy vault’ (מזבול קודש, 1QS X:3; 4QSb XIX:1; 4QSf II:2).
The word מאור seems to be related to holiness because the lights all shine from holy places. On the other hand, holiness is also compared to מאור (1QSb iv:27) and the מאורי פלא, ‘wonderful lights’, are part of God’s glory (4QBerakhota fr1.II:1-3). They are paralleled to angels and spirits, 1QHa IX:11; 4QShirb f2.I:8.

A.3 מָאוֹר occurs in the context of the description of the Tabernacle and its furniture. With the exception of Exod 35:141 and Num 4:9 it is always used here in combination with שֶׁמֶן, ‘(olive)oil’. It occurs in two specific combinations:

  1. שֶֶׁמֶן לַמָּאוֹר (Exod 25:6; 35:8, 28)83, further particularized as שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר, ‘pure beaten olive oil for the מָאוֹר’ (Exod 27:20; Lev 24:2);
  2. שֶׁמֶן הַמָּאוֹר (Exod 35:142; 39:37; Num 4:16).

According to Exod 27:20; Lev 24:2 the ‘oil לַמָּאוֹר’ is intended for the permanent maintenance of the lamp (נֵר). As such the oil is mentioned together with the implements (כְּלִי) and lamps (נֵר plur.) of the lampstand (מְנֹרָה) in Exod 35:14; 39:37, to which are added other utensils in Num 4:9. The oil for (the) מָאוֹר figures among the valuable substances used in the Tabernacle (Num 4:16). From Exod~27:20; Lev 24:2 the conclusion can be drawn that מָאוֹר is not to be equated with נֵר, ‘lamp’.84

A.4 מָאוֹר is a few times used as nomen regens of face (פָּנֶה, Ps 90:8; 1QHoda XIII:32; 4QHodc fr3:585) and eyes (עֵינַיִם, Prov 15:30). The first combination (מאור פני[ך]) finds a parallel usage in the construct chain אֹור פני(ך) (מלך), the light of my / your / the king’s face (Ps 4:7; 44:4; 89:16; Job 29:24; Prov 16:15). It is contrasted to darkness (חשך), 1QHa xiii:32; xvii:26; 4QHodc fr3:5;86 but also combined with אור (1QHa xvii:26; 4QMystc? fr2:4). It is also used to describe the power assisting God to protect his people, viz. the ‘prince of light’ (שר מאור, 1QM XIII.10), and, finally, God is described as an מאור עולם, ‘everlasting light’ in 1QHa xv:25.

6. Exegesis

6.1 Literal Use

A.1 The word מָאוֹר in Gen 1:14-16; Ezek 32:8; Ps 90:8 is rendered as ‘light’,87 ‘licht’,88 ‘lumbrera, astro’,89 ‘coeli luminibus’,90 ‘Leuchte’,91 ‘Licht, Lichtkörper’92 (for the rendering ‘Leuchte(r), Lampe’, cf. below B.1); while the word in the scrolls from Qumran when occurring in a similar context is sometimes also rendered as ‘light’.93 Commentators agree that the word מָאוֹר is applied deliberately to the celestial bodies in Genesis 1, although their names, שֶׁמֶשׁ, ‘sun’ and יָרֵחַ, ‘moon’ as names of deities in Israel’s Umwelt,94 are not explicitly mentioned. With regard to the latter we may compare ‘the white one’ (הַלְּבָנָה, the moon) and ‘the hot one’ (הַחַמָּה, the sun) in Isa. 24:23. It is part of the theology of the narrator to suggest that these מְאוֹרוֹת are in fact the continuation of God’s creation of the light (אוֹר, 1:3) and as such are (only) creations by God for governing the day and the night—and that they are nothing more than that—in contrast to what was believed in Israel’s Umwelt.95

A.2 In Ezekiel 32 a dirge (in reality an oracle of doom) over the Pharaoh is given and — recalling the plague of darkness in Exod 10:21-29 (Greenberg 1997:653) — in Ezek 32:7 Pharaoh is threatened with a sky (שָׁמַיִם) that will be covered, stars (כֹּכְבֵיהֶם) that will be darkened, a sun (שֶׁמֶשׁ) that will be covered, and a moon (יָרֵחַ) that will not give its light (לֹא־יָאִיר אוֹרוֹ). In Ezek 32:8 this threat is summarized in everything that will be darkened above him כָּל־מְאוֹרֵי אוֹר, ‘all the lights that shine’,96 and darkness (חֹשֶׁךְ) will be brought upon the land. The genitive כָּל־מְאוֹרֵי אוֹר may be explained in this case as a genitive of quality:97 ‘all of the lights of light’, viz. ‘all the bright lights’.98

A.3 In the context of the materials needed for the sanctuary in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, the word מָאוֹר occurs as nomen rectum with מְנֹרָה,‘lampstand’ and of שֶׁמֶן, ‘oil’ (or in a prep. construction with לְ99). In this context it is rendered as ‘luminary, light’,100‘light’,101 ‘illumination’,102 ‘lighting’,103 ‘Beleuchtung’,104 ‘res lucens, sidus’;105 but mostly it is rendered as a concrete object, such as ‘lamp’ or ‘Leuchter’ (for the rendering ‘Leuchte[r], Lampe’, cf. however, B.1, below).
The construct chain מְנֹרַת הַמָּאוֹר (Exod 35:14; Num 4:9) is sometimes explained as: הַמָּאוֹר is the ‘sum of seven sacred lamps on golden lamp-stand’.106 However, Jacob Milgrom argues that the word מָאוֹר should not be interpreted as a noun, referring to an object used for lighting, because the construction with מְנֹרָה, ‘lampstand’, excludes the meaning ‘lampstand’ or ‘lamp’ for מָאוֹר. Milgrom proposed to interpret the word as an infinitive construct (as in Aram.) to be rendered ‘for lighting’.107 This interpretation as an infinitive is unnecessary, however, because the word מָאוֹר can still be regarded as a noun, while the construct chain is best interpreted as a genitive of attribute with the word rendered as ‘light, lighting, shining’,108 and the construct chain literally as ‘the lampstand of the light’, i.e. ‘the shining / bright lampstand’ (cf. the parallel text, Exod 39:37 [see also Exod 31:8; Lev 24:4] which has הַמְּנֹרָה הַטְּהֹרָה, ‘the pure / bright lampstand’). Following this line of reasoning, the expression שֶׁמֶן לַמָּאוֹר (Exod 25:6; 27:20; 35:8; 35:28; Lev 24:2), could be translated as the ‘oil for the light(ing)’ in the sanctuary, and the construct chain שֶׁמֶן הַמָּאוֹר can be rendered as ‘the lighting oil’.109

B.1 In addition to the translation of the word מָאוֹר in Gen 1:14-16; Ezek 32:8; Ps 74:16 (and in the non-biblical scrolls from Qumran) as ‘light’ etc. (see A.1, above) the word is frequently rendered more specifically as ‘luminary’,110 ‘Lichtträger, Leuchter’,111 ‘Leuchte, Lampe’,112 ‘Beleuchtungskörper, Lampe’,113 ‘lamps’.114 In the scrolls from Qumran with a similar meaning the word is mostly rendered as ‘luminary’.115 In the context of the materials needed for the sanctuary in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, the word in construct with שֶׁמֶן, ‘oil’ is quite often rendered as ‘luminary’116 ‘lámpara, candelabro’,117 ‘candelabrum’,118 ‘Leuchter’,119 ‘Leuchte, Lampe’,120 ‘Lichtträger’,121 ‘lamps’.122
However, if the word מָאוֹר is translated as ‘lamp’ or the like, the construction מְנֹרַת הַמָּאוֹר (Exod 35:14; Num 4:9) offers a real problem, because in that case we have a pleonasm: ‘the lampstand of the lamp’. However, as has already been suggested in A.3 above, הַמָּאוֹר can be interpreted as a genitive of attribute, rendering it as ‘the bright lampstand’ (Houtman 2000:347-48). In both verses which mention the מְנֹרַת הַמָּאוֹר, ‘the bright lampstand’ (Exod 35:14; Num 4:9), reference is also made to the lamps of the lampstand: וְאֶת־נֵרֹתֶיהָ, ‘and its lamps’ (plur.! similarly in Exod 39:37), clearly indicating the difference in meaning between the two words מָאוֹר and נֵר.
The expression שֶׁמֶן הַמָּאוֹר, however, is easily misunderstood and equated with the oil, which we know in our era, viz. ‘lamp oil’. Yet ‘lamp oil’ is a specific kind of oil, whereas the oil mentioned for use in the sanctuary was not. The oil was ‘pure, beaten olive oil’, which was also used for cooking, and was prescribed for the sanctuary since it was better than the oil which was generally used in lamps (see Sarna 1991:175-76; Milgrom 2001:2086-87). In other words, it is not oil specificcally for lamps, but oil that could be used in lamps as well in order to light the sanctuary. Therefore it stands to reason, that the word מָאוֹר indicates the function for which the oil was to be applied (‘lighting’123) rather than the object in which it was to be applied (‘lamp’),124 which is mentioned separately: לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד, ‘to kindle a lamp continually’ (Exod 27:20; Lev 24:2). In this respect it is remarkable that מָאוֹר is nowhere used in the same way as the word נֵר ‘lamp’,125 whereas it is frequently used in the same way as the noun אוֹר, ‘light’ (cf. § 6.2.A.4 below).

B.2 With regard to Genesis 1 Gerhard von Rad stated that the text breathes a strong anti-mythological pathos, and that the expression ‘lamps’ (for מְאֹרוֹת) is deliberately prosaic and demeaning.126 The emphasis on the heavenly bodies as just מְאֹרוֹת in contrast to the ancient mythological concept of the sun, moon and stars as deities was criticized by Claus Westermann (1974:179), who called it even caricatural. His critical stance is based on the fact that in Egypt the sun-god Amon-Re was called ‘the living Lamp’ (Westermann 1974:179; also Gunkel 1910:109). It can be added that the Akk. god Nusku is designated as nūrū, but even YHWH is called ‘lamp’ (נֵר, 2 Sam. 22:29127), a concept which recurs in PNN as well (e.g. Neriah).128 Westermann therefore stresses the bare fact that the heavenly bodies are depicted as creations of God, while their function became simultaneously their designation.129 Their limitation is that they are part of creation and God has ordered their goal and function. Their name in the creation narrative is at the same moment their function.

6.2 Figurative Use

A.4 מָאוֹר in Ps 90:8 and Prov 15:30 occurs as nomen regens in construct chains with respectively פָנִים, ‘face’ (of God) and עֵינַיִם, ‘eyes’ (of man) and is rendered as ‘luminary’,130 ‘radiante’,131 ‘lumen’,132 ‘light’,133 ‘Licht’,134 ‘leuchten’.135 In the scrolls from Qumran we find identical constructions, in which מָאוֹר is rendered mostly as ‘light’.136 Face and eyes are closely related and sometimes appear to be interchangeable. This is the case also in Ps 90:8 and Prov 15:30 where the source of light is a metaphor for the look reflecting the mood, the judgement and the feelings of a person. This is reflected in the use of the construction מאור פני, ‘light of my face’, in Qumran, where it is said that it ‘darkened’ (ויחשך) in a time of stress and turmoil (1QHoda XIII:32; 4QHodc fr3:5). In the case of Ps 90:8 the (brightly burning) light is a metaphor for the penetrating look of YHWH, from whom nothing is concealed (Ridderbos 1958:399). In the case of Prov 15:30 an exhortation to kindness, the light is a metaphor for the favourable look of the highly-placed, who is the bearer of good news (cf. Prov 15:30b). As for its metaphorical meaning, ‘look’, there is no difference between the use of מָאוֹר in Ps 90:8 and Prov 15:30, nor in the use of אוֹר as nomen regens in a construct chain with פָנִים in Ps 4:7; 44:4; 89:16; Job 29:24; Prov 16:15.137

6.3 Pictorial Material

A.5 If the interpretation of מָאוֹר as ‘light’ is correct, it is hard to find any iconographic material for the word מָאוֹר. Yet, the iconography from the Amarna period of Akhenaten might be illustrative, because it shows the attempt to visualize an abstract concept as ‘(ray of) light’ (see figs. 1-2). In the case of Akhenaten, however, the sun (Aten) was seen as the only god, whose rays of light were blessing hands, providing ‘life’.138


        Figure 1:  House-altar depicting the royal family before Aten139
        (ÄM 14145; courtesy Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin)


        Figure 2:  Stela of adoration of Aten by the royal family140
        (courtesy Egyptian Museum, Cairo)

7. Conclusion

A.1 In the HB מָאוֹר is found in all sorts of texts, particularly in the Torah; but also in Ben Sira and in the non-biblical scrolls from Qumran.

A.2 The word מָאוֹר is grammatically hard to classify because it might refer either to an abstract term or to an object.

A.3 Its use in cognate languages does not contribute to the discussion, since the languages in which the word מָאוֹר is attested are all later than, and influenced by BHebr. Nevertheless, in these languages the word’s meaning is restricted to ‘light’ in general, and as references to the heavenly bodies providing light, and (maybe) also as epithets for important figures (Moses).

A.4 In the Versions, the word is generally represented by verbs and nouns expressing ‘to shine, to give light’ and ‘light’, respectively.

A.5 In the HB, Sir, and Q, the word מָאוֹר is nowhere used to denote an object, as is the case with for instance the word נֵר, ‘lamp’.

A.6 The word is used to qualify especially the word שֶׁמֶן, ‘oil’ and מְנֹרָה, ‘lampstand’ which led in that context to the meaning ‘light, lighting (bright)’.

A.7 The use of the word מָאוֹר as a designation for the sun, moon and stars in the creation story led quite often to the designation ‘luminary’, which is certainly a too modern rendering (Gunkel); a simple ‘light’ (which might indicate also a light source as abstractum pro concreto) as a functional name seems appropriate.


For the abbreviations see the List of Abbreviations.

Aalders 1957
Gerhard Ch. Aalders, Ezechiël II: Hoofdstuk 25-48 (COuT), Kok: Kampen.
Aalen 1973 (1974)
Sverre Aalen, ‘אוֹר, ʾôr’, ThWAT 1:160-82 (ET 1974: TDOT 1:147-67).
Beek 1984
Martinus A. Beek, Prediker – Hooglied (PredOT), Nijkerk: Callenbach.
Beentjes 1997
Pancratius C. Beentjes, The Book of Ben Sira in Hebrew: A Text Edition of All Extant Hebrew Manuscripts and a Synopsis of All Parallel Hebrew Ben Sira Texts (SVT, 68), Leiden: Brill.
Block 1998
Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25-48 (NICOT), Grand Rapids (MI): Eerdmans.
Carbajosa 2016
Ignacio Carbajosa, ‘Primary Translations: Peshitta’, THB 1A:262-78.
Conzelmann 1973 (1974)
Hans Conzelmann, ‘φῶς, φωτιζω, φωτισμός, φωτεινός, φωσφόρος, φωστήρ, ἐπιφαύσκω, ἐπιφώσκω’, ThWNT 9:302-49 (ET 1974: TDNT 9:310-58).
Cook 2000a
Johann Cook, ‘Textual Problems in the Septuagint Version of Proverbs’, JNSL 26/1:171-79.
Cook 2000b
Johann Cook, ‘Lexical Matters in LXX Proverbs’, JNSL 26/2:163-73.
Cook 2004
Johann Cook, ‘Exegesis in the Septuagint’, JNSL 30/1:1-19.
Dahood 1968
Mitchell Dahood, Psalms II: 51-100, Introduction, Translation, and Notes (AB, 17), Garden City (NY): Doubleday.
Delitzsch 1873
Franz Delitzsch, Salomonisches Spruchbuch, Leipzig: Dörffling und Franke (repr. Giessen: Brunnen-Verlag, 1985).
De Waard 1998
Jan de Waard, ‘4QProv and Textual Criticism’, Textus 19:87-96.
Dohmen 2004
Christoph Dohmen, Exodus 19-40: Übersetzt und ausgelegt (HThKAT), Freiburg: Herder.
Driver 1904
Samuel R. Driver, The Book of Genesis with Introduction and Notes (WC), London: Methuen & Co.
Forti 2017
Tova Forti, ‘Proverbs: Primary Translations – Septuagint’, THB 1C:253-59.
Fox 2009
Michael V. Fox, Proverbs 10-31: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB, 18B), New Haven: Yale University Press.
Fox 2015
Michael V. Fox, משלי Proverbs: An Eclectic Edition with Introduction and Textual Commentary (HBCE, 1), Atlanta: SBL Press.
Gispen 1974
Willem H. Gispen, Genesis vertaald en verklaard, I: Genesis 1–11:26 (COuT), Kampen: Kok.
Greenberg 1997
Moshe Greenberg, Ezekiel 21-37: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB, 22A), New York: Doubleday.
Gunkel 1910
Hermann Gunkel, Genesis übersetzt und erklärt (HKAT, I/1) 3rd ed., Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Houtman 2000
Cornelis Houtman, Exodus, volume 3: Chapters 20-40 (HCOT), Leuven: Peeters.
Houtman & De Moor 2005
Alberdina Houtman & Johannes C. de Moor (eds.), A Bilingual Concordance to the Targum of the Prophets, Volume 21: Introduction, Additions and Corrections, Indices, Leiden: Brill.
Jacob 1934
Benno Jacob, Das erste Buch der Tora: Genesis übersetzt und erklärt, Berlin: Schocken Verlag (repr. New York: KTAV Publishing House, s.a.).
Jagersma 1995
Hendrik Jagersma, Genesis 1:1–25:11 (VHB), Nijkerk: Callenbach.
Keel 1992
Othmar Keel, Das Hohelied (ZBKAT, 18) 2nd ed., Zürich: Theologischer Verlag.
König 1897
Eduard König, Historisch-comparative Syntax der Hebräischen Sprache: Schlusstheil des Historisch-kritischen Lehrgebäudes des Hebräischen, Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung.
König 1925
Eduard König, Die Genesis eingeleitet, übersetzt und erklärt, 3rd ed., Gütersloh: Bertelsmann.
Lange 2017
Armin Lange, ‘Proverbs: Ancient Hebrew Texts — Ancient Manuscript Evidence’, THB 1C:248-50.
Levey 1987
Samson H. Levey, The Aramaic Bible, Volume 13: The Targum of Ezekiel Translated, with a Critical Introduction, Apparatus, and Notes, Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Levine 1993
Baruch A. Levine, Numbers 1-20: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB, 4A), New York: Doubleday.
Lipiński 1995a (1999a)
Edouard Lipiński, ‘Lamp, ניר, נר’, DDD, 941-44 (1999a – DDD2, 504-05).
Lipiński 1995b (1999b)
Edouard Lipiński, ‘Shemesh, שׁמשׁ’, DDD, 1445-52 (1999b – DDD2, 764–68).
Maarsingh 1988
Berend Maarsingh, Ezechiël, deel II (PredOT), Nijkerk: Callenbach.
Milgrom 2001
Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 23-27: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB, 3B), New York: Doubleday.
Plöger 1984
Otto Plöger, Sprüche Salomos (Proverbia), (BKAT, XVII), Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag.
Pope 1977
Marvin H. Pope, Song of Songs: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB, 7C), New York: Doubleday.
Propp 2006
William H.C. Propp, Exodus 19-40: A New translation with with Introduction and Commentary (AB, 2A), New York: Doubleday.
Ridderbos 1958
Jan Ridderbos, De Psalmen, II: Psalm 42-106 (COuT), Kampen: Kok.
Rudolph 1962
Wilhelm Rudolph, Das Buch Ruth — Das Hohe Lied — Die Klagelieder (KAT), Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn (repr. Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1970).
Sæbø 1978
Magne Sæbø, ‘אוֹר, ʾôr, Licht’, THAT 1:84-90.
Sanders 1965
James A. Sanders, The Psalms Scroll of Qumrân Cave 11 (11QPsa) (DJD, 4), Oxford: Claredon Press.
Sarna 1991
Nahum M. Sarna, שמות Exodus: The Traditional Hebrew Text with New JPS Translation (JPS Torah Commentary), Philadelphia (PA).
Schmidt 1995 (1999)
Brian B. Schmidt, ‘Moon, ירח, כסא, לבנה, חדשׁ’, DDD, 1098-113 (1999 – DDD2, 585-93).
Schroer & Staubli 2005
Silvia Schroer & Thomas Staubli, Die Körpersymbolik der Bibel, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
Seebass 1996
Horst Seebass, Genesis I: Urgeschichte (1,1-11,26) Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag.
Skinner 1930
John Skinner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis (ICC) 2nd ed., Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Soggin 1997
J. Alberto Soggin, Das Buch Genesis, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
Speiser 1964
Ephraim A. Speiser, Genesis: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB, 1), Garden City (NY): Doubleday.
Staubli 2016
Thomas Staubli, ‘Cultural and Religious Impacts of Long-Term Cross-Cultural Migration between Egypt and the Levant’, JAEI 12 (December 2016):50-88.
Stoop 2002
Nelleke W.Th. Stoop - van Paridon, Het Lied der Liederen: Een filologische analyse van het Hebreeuwse boek, Leuven: Peeters.
Sukenik 1955
Eleazar L. Sukenik (ed.), The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University Jerusalem: Magnes Press / The Hebrew University (= אוצר המגילות הגנוזות, Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik / The Hebrew University, 1954).
Tov 1999
Emanuel Tov, ‘Recensional Differences between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint of Proverbs’, in: The Greek & Hebrew Bible: Collected Essays on the Septuagint (SVT, 72), Leiden: Brill, 419-31.
Ueberschaer 2016
Frank Ueberschaer, ‘Sophia Sirach / Ben Sira / Das Buch Jesus Sirach’, in: Siegfried Kreuzer (Hrsg.), Einleitung in die Septuaginta (LXX.H, 1), Gütersloh: Gütersloher, 437-55.
Van Selms 1979
Adrianus van Selms, Genesis, deel I (PredOT), Nijkerk: Callenbach.
Vattioni 1968
Francesco Vattioni, Ecclesiastico: Testo ebraico con apparato critico e versioni greca, latina e siriaca, Napoli: Istituto Orientale di Napoli.
Vawter 1977
Bruce Vawter, On Genesis: A New Reading, Garden City (NY): Doubleday.
Von Rad 1972
Gerhard von Rad, Das Erste Buch Mose: Genesis übersetzt und erklärt (ATD, 2-4) 10th ed., Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
Wenham 1987
Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (WBC, 1), Waco (TX): Word Books.
Westermann 1974
Claus Westermann, Genesis, 1. Teilband: Genesis 1-11 (BKAT, I/1), Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag.
Wright 2015
Benjamin G. Wright, ‘Sirach (Ecclesiasticus)’, in: James K. Aitken (ed.), The T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint, London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 410-24.
Zimmerli 1967
Walther Zimmerli, 1.Mose 1-11: Urgeschichte (ZBKAT, 1.1) 3rd ed., Zürich: Theologischer Verlag.
Zimmerli 1979
Walther Zimmerli, Ezechiel, 2. Teilband: Exechiel 25-48 (BKAT, XIII/2) 2nd ed., Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag.


The first version of this article was published March 24th, 2011, as Cornelis Houtman, ‘מָאוֹר, luminary, lightbearer’. For the publication in the Semantics of Ancient Hebrew Database the article was thoroughly reworked and expanded by Raymond de Hoop and is published as a co-publication by both authors. Thanks are due to Mrs Alice Deken (Amsterdam), who was so kind as to correct the English of this paper.

  1. In Ex. 25:6 the word has the defective spelling: מָאֹר

  2. Based on Accordance XII; checked against the relevant volumes in the series DJD. 

  3. There are considerable differences in numbering of the consecutive columns between the first edition of Sukenik 1955, and the more recent edition in DJD 40. The texts from 1QHoda listed above are in the edition of Sukenik the following: I:11; V:32; VII:25; IX:26; XII:5; fr2:12. 

  4. DSS.SE, 197:XXIII-bottom:12. 

  5. DSS.SE, 903: fr1.IV:5. 

  6. Fox 2009:603-04; Fox 2015:243. Fox refers inter alia to Qoh 6:9, טוֹב מַרְאֵה עֵינַיִם מֵהֲלָךְ־נָפֶשׁ, ‘better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of desire’. However, whereas this interpretation of Qoh 6:9 might be correct, contrasting what the eye sees (concretum) with the desire of the soul (fata morgana), does not apply to Prov 15:30, because — as Fox states himself (2015:243) — not everything the eye sees, pleases the heart. 

  7. Cf. De Waard 1998:96, concluding that in four out of five cases 4QProvb supports MT, stating that in ‘view of the idiosyncrasies of the Greek translator such a result is not surprising.’ See also De Waard, BHQ 17:5*-6*.; Lange 2017:248. 

  8. Note that the text of this verse — and thus the reading of MT מָאוֹר — is not discussed and thus not considered to be problematic, by Plöger 1984:178-79; Tov 1999:427; De Waard, BHQ 17:29, 46*; Barthélemy, CTAT 5:627-28. 

  9. Tov 1999:420; Cook 2000a:173-76; Cook 2000b:164; Cook 2004:7-12; Forti 2017:254-55. An additional problem with LXX-Proverbs is the fact that the order of verses at the end of chapter 15 and the beginning of chapter 16 differs considerably (see Tov 1999:426-27), and LXX reads in our case MT-Prov 16:8-9 before v. 30 (numbered in Rahlfs as 15:29a-29b). Taking the contents of these verses into consideration (Better is a small intake with righteousness / than abundant produce with injustice. // Let the heart of a man think righteous things, / that his steps may be directed by God. [NETS]), might explain the translator’s manner of interpreting the text. 

  10. Jastrow, DTT, 721 (referring to bPesaḥ. 62b; yTaʿan. 4:8/18, 68d); Dalman, ANHT, 221. The expression also became a euphemism for blindness (bḤag. 5b), see the lexica, referred to above. 

  11. Rudolph 1962:149, with n. 9b: ‘mit einem Blick aus deinem Augen’; cf. also NJPS ‘with one [glance] of your eyes’; similarly: Beek 1984:172. Also quoted in HAL, 512; HALOT, 539. 

  12. According to Dirksen, BHQ 18:17, LXX, Vg and Pesh are indeterminate; however, Pesh applies similarly to MT, ܗܕܐ (hdʾ) (msc.) and ܥܝܢܐ (ʿ ynʾ) (fem.). 

  13. Pope 1977:481. Marvin Pope (1977:481) argued with regard to Job 21:20 that the verb (יִרְאוּ, qal impf. jus.) precedes the noun and therefore does not need to agree in gender or number (see GK, 487, §145o; Joüon-Muraoka, GBH, 557, §150.r3) Therefore, this text is only a possibility. The first two texts (Zech 3:9, 4:10) were dismissed as irrelevant by Nelleke Stoop (2002:248, n. 32.), with the remark that עַיִן is applied there in a metaphorical sense and thus hardly could be used as evidence. Yet, as far as I am aware, the gender of a word remains the same, whether applied in a metaphorical sense or not, and Stoop does not offer any argument to strengthen her statement. The last text (Song 6:5) refers to עֵינַיִךְ with the masculine שֶׁהֵם (cf. Rudolph 1962:163) showing that the noun sometimes was referred to as masculine. 

  14. Stoop 2002:248. See also DCH i:179: ‘… masc. אֶחָד (חַד, אַחַד, Kt אחת); cstr. אַחַד (Kt אחת); … fem. אַחַת (אֶחָד, אֶחָ֑ת, Kt אחד); cstr. אַחַת (Kt אחד); see also HAL, 29; Ges18, 33. Although Stoop also refers to this phenomenon (2002:248-49, with n. 34), she nevertheless proposes an emendation to the text of Song 4:9, without indicating, however, what the change entails. She does offer an interesting interpretation of בְּאַחַד as an adverbial expression connected to the verb: ‘you captured me at once’ (p. 248-49, with n. 33). 

  15. See GK, 298, §97a; 453, §134; Joüon-Muraoka, GBH, 525-26, §142b; IBHS, 275, §15.2.1f. 

  16. Keel 1992:153, with reference to pp. 71-74; see already GB, 582; furthermore Schroer & Staubli 2005:86-87. 

  17. In Ex 25:6 there is a note in Mp, saying that the spelling of the word (מָאֹר) occurs only once (חד); yet there is no suggestion to emend the text. 

  18. DCH i:159; HAL, 23; Ges18, 26. 

  19. DNWSI 468, s.v. yrd. The word ארI is listed in DISO, 23, but is not discussed separately in DNWSI, 100, s.v. ʾr1, but only in the context of other words where the reading ʾr may have occurred. 

  20. DLU, 46; DULAT 1, 94; DULAT 3, 91. 

  21. DLU, 46-47; DULAT 1, 94-95; DULAT 3, 91; KWU, 14. 

  22. Jastrow, DTT, 721-22; WTM iii:2-3, (1. ‘Licht, Lichtträger, das Leuchtende’; 2. ‘Lichtloch’); Dalman, ANHT, 221. 

  23. Sokoloff, DJPA, 288, although Sokoloff considers the possibility that the text is corrupt. 

  24. BL 491, §61.gζ; Joüon-Muraoka, GBH, 257, §88L.e. 

  25. BL 489, §61.wε; SLOCG, 223-25, §29.20-25; Joüon-Muraoka, GBH, 256-57, §88L.d. 

  26. Cf. also §§ A.5.1 and A.7 below. 

  27. The construction שֶׁמֶן לַמָּאוֹר might be understood as a genitive construction, in which the construct state is avoided, and לְ, ‘to’ is used instead; see A.3 above: שֶׁמֶן הַמָּאוֹר; cf. Joüon-Muraoka, GBH, 473-74, §130a. However, the more specific description שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר ‘pure beaten olive oil for the מָאוֹר’ (Exod 27:20; Lev 24:2), might indicate that we should render the shorter form שֶׁמֶן לַמָּאוֹר also as a prepositional construction: ‘oil for the מָאוֹר’. [click number to go back to n. 99, below] 

  28. The text reads לְמָאוֹר, thus apparently without definite article; Eduard König (1897:127, §233d) supposes that לַמָּאוֹר was meant. [click numbers to go back to nn. 83 or 99, below] 

  29. Cf. GELS, 328-29, 359-60; cf. LEH1, 205; LEH2, 275: ‘seeing, causing to see — מראה?’. 

  30. GELS, 609; LEH2, 539. 

  31. GELS, 710; cf. LEH1, 499; LEH2, 642. 

  32. LEH1, 500; LEH2, 642. Cf. GELS, 712: ‘1. act of lighting; 2. source of light, luminary body’. 

  33. Some mss reversed the word-order מָאוֹר וָשָׁמֶשׁ, ‘light and sun’ and read here ἥλιον καὶ σελήνη, ‘sun and moon’; cf. Tg: סיהרא ושמשא

  34. GELS, 725; cf. LEH1, 511; LEH2, 657. 

  35. GELS, 726; cf. LEH1, 511; LEH2, 657. The word φωστήρ is also rendered as ‘luminary’ (GELS, 726; LEH1, 511; LEH2, 657), yet this rendering does not match the origin of the word (<φῶς; cf. Conzelmann 1973:304 [1974:311-12]). In this respect the rendering ‘luminary’, or ‘body of light’ is too modernizing, as Gunkel (1910:109) stated. The parallel use to φῶς in LXX (cf. Dan.-LXX 12:3 to Jer. 4:23; see GELS, 726), and the use of the words φαῦσις, φῶς, φωστήρ, and φωτίσμος applied by the witnesses LXX, α´, σ´, and θ´ in e.g. Lev 24:2; Ps 74:16, and Prov 15:30, as well as the use of φωστήρ later in NT (Phil. 2:15; esp. Rev. 21:11) does not legitimize the rendering as ‘luminary’, but simply suggests ‘light’ or (as a maximum) ‘that which gives out light’. 

  36. GELS, 726; cf. LEH1, 511; LEH2, 657. 

  37. GELS, 726; LEH1, 511; LEH2, 657. 

  38. LXX has no rendering for the complete expression שֶׁמֶן הַמָּאוֹר / הַשָּׁמֶן לְמָאוֹר in 35:142, 28. 

  39. Payne Smith, CSD, 329; Sokoloff, SLB, 893: ‘light’, ‘lamp’, ‘star’, ‘fire’. 

  40. Payne Smith, CSD, 329; similarly Sokoloff, SLB, 894. 

  41. Payne Smith, CSD, 330; similarly Sokoloff, SLB, 896. 

  42. Payne Smith, CSD, 334; Sokoloff, SLB, 904. 

  43. Levy, CWT i:40; Jastrow, DTT, 82. 

  44. Sokoloff, DJPA, 65; Tal, DSA, 506. 

  45. The text of TgSmr reads אנרותה

  46. Levy, CWT i:40; Jastrow, DTT, 82; Sokoloff, DJPA, 65. 

  47. Tal, DSA, 14; Sokoloff, DJPA, 288. 

  48. Levy, CWT ii:96; Jastrow, DTT, 881; Sokoloff, DJPA, 342. 

  49. Levy, CWT ii:95; Jastrow, DTT, 882; Sokoloff, DJPA, 343. 

  50. MT reads מְאוֹרֵי אוֹר, which is rendered in TgJ as כמנהרי נהוריא, ‘like the shining lights’ (Levey 1987:92). 

  51. Tal, DSA, 507. 

  52. Levy, CWT ii:149; Jastrow, DTT, 960; Sokoloff, DJPA, 369. 

  53. Lewis & Short, LD, 208. 

  54. According to V-PsG; the rendering in V-PsH is ‘luminare’. 

  55. Lewis & Short, LD, 880. 

  56. Lewis & Short, LD, 880. 

  57. Lewis & Short, LD, 887. 

  58. According to V-PsG; the rendering in V-PsH is ‘lux’. 

  59. Lewis & Short, LD, 1079. 

  60. Lewis & Short, LD, 1079. 

  61. Lewis & Short, LD, 1080. 

  62. Lewis & Short, LD, 1085. 

  63. Cf. n. 54, above. 

  64. Lewis & Short, LD, 1088. 

  65. Cf. n. 58, above. 

  66. Hatch & Redpath, CS, 1425, 1450-51. 

  67. Levy, CWT ii:95’; Jastrow, DTT, 882; Sokoloff, DJPA, 343. 

  68. Levy, CWT i:40; Jastrow, DTT, 82; Sokoloff, DJPA, 65. 

  69. Only once in 2 Sam. 22:29, which is text critically somewhat dubious; cf. Ps 18:29. 

  70. Only once in Isa. 26:11. 

  71. Houtman & De Moor 2005:304-05, 308. 

  72. A unique word in LXX, only applied in Sir 43:4; see HRCS, 1246. 

  73. Mostly (577x) ܢܘܪܐ (nwrʾ) is applied as the equivalent of אֵשׁ, ‘fire’, e.g. Gen 15:17; 19:24; Exod 3:2; 19:18; Lev 1:7, etc. 

  74. Applied only 5x for texts from MT; it is the equivalent of Hebr. אֵשׁ, ‘fire’ (2 Kgs 2:11; 6:17; Nah. 2:4 [2:3]; cf. Deut. 33:2, אֵשְׁדָּת, ‘lightning’[?]), and Aram. נוּר (Dan 7:10; cf. Pesh ܢܘܪܐ (nwrʾ) and previous note); furthermore also for אש in Sir 48:9. 

  75. HRCS, App. 2, 191; Muraoka, GHTIS, 104, 142. 

  76. DCH iv:577. See also HAL, 509; HALOT, 536; Ges18, 617 (referring all three to Akk. lišān girri). 

  77. Even though the translation was rather isomorphic (Wright 2015:414-16), this rendering might be labelled as an ‘explicative translation’, which was one of the translator’s techniques; cf. Wright 2015:420-22; Ueberschaer 2016:447-48). 

  78. Barthélemy, CTAT 3:ccvii-viii; STOT, 537-40; TCHB 3, 152. Another option could be that the common reading is due to later adaptations of the translation to the interpretation of LXX, or, that it is due to a common translation technique, or tradition of interpretation (Carbajosa 2016:274). 

  79. Lewis & Short, LD, 1085. 

  80. Lewis & Short, LD, 1084. 

  81. Lewis & Short, LD, 1085. 

  82. Ridderbos 1958:262. On the other hand, Mitchell Dahood (1968:207), states that ‘māʾōr “luminary”, may denote either the moon or the sun, but here, because it is conditioned by šemeš, it bears the conditioned meaning “moon”.’ Dahood apparently overlooks the fact that only when defined by means of the adjectives גָּדֹול and קָטֹן the word מָאוֹר is conditioned to mean ‘sun’ or ‘moon’. In other cases (Gen 1:14-15; Ezek 32:7-8), it denotes ‘luminary’ in general. 

  83. Cf. n. 28, above. 

  84. This is substantiated by the fact that נֵר nowhere functions as a nomen rectum as does the word מָאוֹר in the (prepositional) constructions שֶׁמֶן הַמָּאוֹר/לַמָּאוֹר and מְנֹרַת הַמָּאוֹר, which indicates that the two words are not interchangeable. 

  85. DSS.SE, 903: fr1.IV:5. 

  86. DSS.SE, fr1.IV:5. 

  87. NJPS; Driver 1904:9-11; Speiser 1964:3-4, 6; Vawter 1977:47-48 (once rendering ‘luminary’); Wenham 1987:2, 22 (adding ‘lamp’ as second meaning of the word). 

  88. Aalders 1957:121-22; Gispen 1974:59-63; Jagersma 1995:27. 

  89. DBHE, 374. 

  90. Gesenius, TPC i:56. 

  91. Jacob 1934:48-51; Gunkel 1910:108-09; KBL, 489; HAL, 512; Seebass 1996:59; Soggin 1997:37-38. 

  92. GB, 393; cf. also KBL, 489, suggesting ‘Lichtkörper’ as a second possibility; Westermann 1974:107, 179. 

  93. See e.g. DSS.SE, 95 (1QS X:3); 145 (1QFestival Prayersab II:1); yet mostly the word ‘luminary’ is given, cf. below §B.1. 

  94. Lipiński 1995b:1445-52 (1999b:504-05); Schmidt 1995:1098-113 (1999:585-93). For iconographical material regarding this belief, see, in addition to figures 1-2 above, also ANEP, 175-78, ## 514-15, 518-20, 529.: 

  95. See esp. Westermann 1974:179. Cf. also Zimmerli 1967:62; Wenham 1987:22. On the other hand, Schmidt 1995:1107 (1999:590), states that despite the ‘clear status distinction between YHWH and the moon, it nevertheless upholds a significant degree of continuity between YHWH and the astral bodies as to their functions and powers.’ 

  96. Rendered thus or in a comparable way: NJPS; NEB; NRSV; StV; NBG; NBV. 

  97. GK, 436, §128p; Joüon-Muraoka, GBH, 466, §129f.1. 

  98. KJV; ASV; Aalders 1957:122; Zimmerli 1979:763 (‘alle hellen Lichter’). 

  99. Cf. nn. 27 and 28, above. 

  100. BDB, 22. 

  101. DCH v:116-17. 

  102. Propp 2006:310, 313, 624-25, 630. 

  103. Milgrom 2001:2087; see further also NJPS; Sarna 1991:175-76; Levine 1993:163-64, 168. 

  104. Dohmen 2004:224. 

  105. Zorell, 404. 

  106. BDB, 22; Skinner 1930:24. 

  107. Milgrom 2001:2087. 

  108. See Houtman 2000:347-48; see GK, 436, §128p-r; Joüon-Muraoka, GBH, 466, 129f. König (1897:127, §233d) called the noun a ‘nomen actionis’, which is followed quite often. 

  109. Milgrom 2001:2087. For a discussion of the way the oil was to be produced, see Sarna 1991:175-76; Milgrom 2001:2086-87. 

  110. BDB, 22; Skinner 1930:24; KBL, 489; HALOT, 539; DCH v:116-17; See also: Greenberg 1997:649 (‘all light-giving bodies’); Maarsingh 1988:241 (‘hemellichamen die licht uitstralen’). 

  111. HAWAT, 203; König 1925:151-53. 

  112. Gunkel 1910:108-09; Von Rad 1972:35; Van Selms 1979:31-32; Jagersma 1995:27. 

  113. Ges18, 620; Zimmerli 1967:2. 

  114. Wenham 1987:22; Block 1998:206 (‘lit. … lamps …’). 

  115. DCH v:116-17; see e.g. DSS.SE, 191 (1QHoda XX:5); 645 (4QBerakhota fr1.II:3). 

  116. BDB, 22 (מָאוֹר is ‘sum of seven sacred lamps on golden lamp-stand’); cf. also Skinner 1930:24. 

  117. DBHE, 374. 

  118. Gesenius, TPC i:56. 

  119. GB, 393; HAWAT, 203; HAL, 512; Ges18, 620. 

  120. Ges18, 620; KBL, 489. 

  121. HAWAT, 203. 

  122. Houtman 2000:463-64; Wenham 1987:22 (used to designate ‘the sanctuary lamp’). 

  123. Cf. also the rendering in Dohmen 2004:224: ‘Öl zur Beleuchtung’. 

  124. Compare the construction שֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה, ‘anointing oil’ in the same context (Exod 25:6; 35:8, 28; Num 4:16). 

  125. Cf. n. 84, above. 

  126. Von Rad 1972:35. See in a similar way, also Van Selms 1979:31-32; Jagersma 1995:27. 

  127. Contrast Ps 18:29, which reads כִּי־אַתָּה תָּאִיר ‏ נֵרִי ‘for You light my lamp’. 

  128. Cf. Lipiński 1995a:941-43; Lipiński 1999a:504-05; cf. also נֵר, section 2b. 

  129. Westermann 1974:179. The difference is strongly based on the interpretation and emphasis of the word מָאוֹר, because we find similar remarks in Gunkel 1910:109; Von Rad 1972:35. 

  130. BDB, 22, where ‘luminary’ is defined as lamp: ‘the luminary of thy face (thy face as a lamp)’ and ‘the luminary of the eyes (= the eyes as a lamp)’. 

  131. DBHE, 374 

  132. Gesenius, TPC i:56, ‘lumen oculorum (= oculi lucida)’. 

  133. DCH v:116-17. 

  134. GB, 393; HAWAT, 203; Ges18, 620. See also HCHAT i:688, ‘bildl. Lichtglanz’. 

  135. KBL, 489; HAL, 512; see also Ges18, 620, adding to the meaning ‘Licht, Glanz’, ‘in the sense of lighting eyes’ (‘i.S.v. leuchtende Augen’). 

  136. DCH v:117; DSS.SE, 173 (1QHoda XIII:32); 903 (4QHodc fr3:5 = DSS.SE fr1.iv:5). 

  137. Cf. also 1QSb 4:27; 1QHa 12:6; 1QHa 12:28; see also תאיר פניך 4QCommunal Confession (4Q393) f3:5; ויאר פניו 4QSefer ha-Milḥamah (4Q285) f8:4; 11QSefer ha-Milḥamah (11Q14) f1ii:7. 

  138. See also the pictures of the throne of Tutankhamon, ANEP, 145, ## 415-17. 

  139. Also published in ANEP, 143, # 411. 

  140. A similar stela is published in ANEP, 142, # 408. 

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